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Why I'm gaga for Greenville

Oneika Raymond Oneika Raymond
Oneika Raymond is a journalist, media personality, and Travel Channel host who has journeyed to over 100 countries on 6 continents. To check out her travel stories, visit OneikaTheTraveller.com
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Reedy Rides, Greenville, South Carolina’s only dedicated bike rental business, greeted me with a cornucopia of two-wheelers in every size, color, and configuration imaginable. But while picking out a bike was the goal, I had another, more pressing issue on my mind: how to pronounce the city’s name.

Because, while I THOUGHT I knew how to say Greenville, when I jumped into my Lyft from the airport my driver seemed to pronounce it differently. Unsure if my ears had played tricks on me, I had been wracked by doubt ever since. This was a great opportunity to call in some local reinforcements.

Outfitted with my 7-speed chariot and a city map, I launched my query. “So,” I began, “this may seem like a strange question.” I looked back and forth between Reedy’s two employees as they fixed their eyes on me expectantly. “But the city’s name-- is it pronounced Green-VILLE, or Green-VUHL?”

They looked at each other, then laughed. As it turns out, the correct answer is, well, both, though the topic’s up for debate depending on who you ask. Bloop.

However, as I would soon find out, there’s one thing that everybody seems to agree on: Greenville is a pretty cool place. For, while South Carolina has been long lauded for its history and hospitality, the state has emerged with two more “h” adjectives: hip and happening. And Greenville, surprising as it may seem, is largely responsible for these new descriptors. Here’s why.

The noms

People who know me well know that the way to my heart is through my stomach, so Greenville had me at “we have more than 110 restaurants within walking distance of any downtown hotel”. With over 600 restaurants total in a city of just under 70,000 residents, I knew I would have to pace myself...especially since I forgot my stretchy pants at home. The best thing is that Greenville has the full range of cuisines on offer, which is wonderful for discerning or picky taste buds (and potentially hazardous for stringent budgets, but yolo).

“We have more than 110 restaurants within walking distance of any downtown hotel”

During my time in the city, I was lucky enough to sample a variety of dining experiences, from farm-to-table restaurants and brasseries, to smoothie bowl shacks and old school lunch counters. For example, in just one day I was able to stock up on sandwiches at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe for lunch, indulge in the tasty apps and stunning views at the upmarket Up on the Roof (located atop my hotel, the Embassy Suites), and feast on sumptuous Persian fare at Pomegranate on Main for dinner (Persian in Greenville, South Carolina, who’da thunk it?!). At Roost, the upscale-looking-yet-affordable spot in NOMA Square where I had breakfast one morning, I enjoyed a hearty meal of standard, but not basic, American fare. With their farm-fresh eggs, “secret-recipe” granola, and fresh, house-baked pastries, it was plain to see why the restaurant prides itself on its “soil to city” dining concept.

There are loads of cool things to do

As a frequent, fervent, and often restless travelers, my concern with travelling to smaller cities is that there won’t be enough ways to occupy my time. However, Greenville delighted me with the number of activities available. For the outdoorsy types, there are countless hiking trails in the greater Greenville area, just a short drive a way. For city slickers like myself wanting a more convenient option, the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, which bisects the downtown core, can be walked, biked, or jogged (bikes can be rented at the aforementioned Reedy Rides).

If you’re interested in stimulating your mind as opposed to moving your body, Greenville’s got stuff for you to do as well. For example, so engrossed was I by my candle-making workshop at Magnolia Scents by Design, that I missed my olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting at the aptly named Oil & Vinegar. Prefer performance art to arts and crafts? Greenville has concerts, comedy shows, and theatrical performances that you can attend nearly every night of the year. Even better, many of these are at affordable price points. In Greenville, unlike in other cities, culture doesn’t have to be costly, which I love.

falls park greenville sc
Falls Park in Downtown Greenville

It’s so darn instagrammable

Whether you’re a “like”-starved millennial or casual scroller of the ‘gram, you’ll have to admit that Greenville is pretty photogenic. From the colorful murals adorning the exteriors of the Village Studios and Gallery (which is the city’s premier exhibition space-- it features unique art from the community’s up and coming talent) to the breathtaking landscapes of Falls Park on the Reedy (that bridge though), there’s more than enough material to catch your eye and fill your feed.

"Whether you’re a “like”-starved millennial or casual scroller of the ‘gram, you’ll have to admit that Greenville is pretty photogenic."

Speaking of Instagram, I found Greenville’s very own IG account to be an excellent resource for where to go, what to do, and where to eat while in town. Their feed is chock full of enticingly vibrant photos, and their story highlights have a plethora of insider tips for where to go for the most insta-worthy shots in the city.

Go to Greenville

Greenville not on your radar?  I’m not surprised, because truthfully, I had never even heard of it before planning my South Carolina trip.  But after visiting, I’d highly recommend adding it to your travel list. The city may be small, but it has many big city amenities, all without an ounce of pretentiousness or a hefty price tag. So go, live your best South Carolina life, then tell all your friends to do the same.  Because Greenville-- ambiguous pronunciation notwithstanding-- is well worth your time and money.

Oneika Raymond
Oneika Raymond is a journalist, media personality, and Travel Channel host who has journeyed to over 100 countries on 6 continents. To check out her travel stories, visit OneikaTheTraveller.com